'Yanny' or 'laurel' debate explained: Where and how it began and why do some people hear it differently?

The audio clip surprisingly comes from vocabulary.com for the word "laurel" which is the last place you can expect to hear something incorrectly.

It internet is getting split up over an audio clip with some users hearing the word spoken out in the audio clip as "laurel" while other hear "yanny". While it seems like there's no connection between the two, scientists claim there is a reason why it sounds different to some and the it will surprise you.

Representational image.

Representational image.

The audio clip became an internet sensation overnight similar to the “the dress” simply because people hear the audio clip originally meant to be pronounce “laurel” as “yanny”, just like the "the dress" saw some people see it as white and gold, while other perceived it to be blue and black.

According to The Verge, the audio clip is similar to an optical illusion called “Rubin’s Vase”, where some people see two face profiles, while others see the shape in between them that looks like the vase.

An auditory neuroscientist told The Verge that the audio clip is an “ambiguous figure” which also means that nobody will be able to conclude what it is to be accurately understood as. This is also the reason why the internet has split into two sides, those who can hear it as "yanny" and other who can hear it as "laurel".

Scientists say that the higher frequency sounds in the clip make it sound like “yanny”, while the lower frequencies make it sound like “laurel”.

In short, scientists say, what you hear will depend on what sounds your brain is paying attention to, including whether you have heard something similar in the past, and what you are expecting to hear from the clip. Another explanation for the same is to do with hearing loss with the higher frequencies getting lost when adults grow older.

So who came up with this ambiguous audio clip? A detailed report by Wired that sheds some more light on its history and origins and links it to vocabulary.com, which is resource website that defines the word as, “wreath worn on the head, usually as a symbol of victory.” And in case you have been wondering what was the actual word behind it was mean it was supposed to be pronounced as, the word would be “laurel”.

Wired managed to connect with the CTO of vocabulary.com, Marc Tinkler, who explained to them that the voice was one of 2,00,000 words initially recorded by opera singers because they are one of the few people who know how to read words written in  the international phonetic alphabet (IPA).

The IPA is a system of phonetic notation devised by linguists so that it every alphabet is understood accurately and uniquely by all people.

As for the word “laurel” it was reportedly recorded by a member of the original cast of CATS on Broadway.

So if the recording was lying on a website on the internet? Who found it? And who made it popular?

Well, as the story revealed by Wired goes, it all started on 11 May at Flowery Branch High School in Georgia, in the US where Katie Hetzel, a freshman was studying the word for literature class.

She looked up the word “laurel” on vocabulary.com and after playing the audio file, heard the word “yanny” instead.

As with everyone else who finds a mismatch, she asked her friends in class with mixed results. Post that she uploaded it to her Instagram story and soon enough another senior named Fernando Castro re-published the clip on to his Instagram story as a poll.

Soon enough, Reddit user Roland Camry (a friend of Castro’s ) spotted the same, and then posted it to a channel called r/blackmagicfuckery after which it went viral on the internet.




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